Led by Greenard, Gators pass rush leaves lasting impression

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Florida defensive end Jonathan Greenard sacks Florida State quarterback James Blackman during Saturday's game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Matt Pendleton/Correspondent]

There are innumerable moments that make up a regular season, and rarely one epitomizes the whole. From Kyle Trask’s emergence, to UF’s mismanagement against Georgia — each season comes with its share of highs and lows, and it’s seldom an even split between the two.

The lows are harped on, while the highs are expected to become routine; the latter seemed to define the overall play of UF’s defensive line this season.

Lost in the noise at the conclusion of Florida’s regular season was just how dominant the team’s defensive line was in 2019 when it came to taking the quarterback down. 

The Gators recorded eight sacks against Florida State on Saturday, with Jonathan Greenard leading the way with a trio. Saturday’s performance gave the graduate transfer from Louisville nine sacks across 11 games this season — a number made more impressive when one remembers Greenard was hampered by a sprained ankle midway through the season. For his production Saturday, Greenard was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week on Monday. 

The figure becomes even more impressive when considering the absence of senior defensive end Jabari Zuniga, who ultimately played just four games this season. 

But Zuniga’s absence didn’t stop Florida from getting to the quarterback Saturday — something it has done to various degrees of success for much of the season, and the statistics back that up. 

The eight sacks against FSU gave Florida 46 sacks on the season, the highest tally since the Gators recorded 50 sacks in 1997. 

After all, contributing to a performance such as Saturday’s was what drove Greenard to Florida for his final go-round. 

“Man, we’ve got some ballers,” Greenard said. “We’re together all the time. We understand what they like to do in pass rush, we understand what they like to do in the run game. All that, we understand each other and that makes it that much easier to get to the quarterback.”

It wasn’t just Greenard who found getting to the quarterback to be more of a fun challenge than a true test. Zach Carter, who started in place of Zuniga, recorded a sack to give him 4.5 on the season, while fellow defensive linemen Luke Ancrum, Mohamoud Diabate, TJ Slaton and Adam Shuler each had half of a sack. And UF linebackers James Houston IV and Ventrell Miller combined for a pair of sacks as part of an all-around effort from Florida’s pass-rush. 

Of all the improvements made under coach Dan Mullen and his coaching staff, the improved ability to get to the quarterback is one of the most glaring. UF recorded just 23 sacks during the 2017 campaign prior to Mullen’s return, doubling the output from two seasons ago. 

“I wasn’t here then, but overall, just looking back then, seeing the culture change. What Coach Mullen has done, what this whole staff has done, especially with us in the offseason working our tails off, it shows really what we can do,” Greenard said. “It’s Florida. The talent is always going to be there, it’s just a matter of making sure we’re all on the same page and that we’re executing and keeping our mind on the same goal.”

Now, with the standard set, Greenard will depart the Gators not only having left lasting memories — he helped set the example for UF’s “next men up” on the defensive line, too. 

“The injury bug just hit us at the wrong time. If the injury bug never bit us, I mean, we can’t call it, but everybody knows where we would have been,” Greenard said. “Just control the controllables. I’m just thankful that we got this situation to make this mark — a 10-win season and going to a really good bowl game, a New Year’s Six bowl game. It’s going to be really good for the young guys. We set the pace and now you guys got to go off and run. I think they understand that. They’re going to pride themselves on doing a really good job in the offseason.”

 

14 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for all the great memories Jon Greenard! My only regret now is to not have had you as a Gator your whole career. You’re a real leader and a class act.

    Good luck in all your future endeavors. Here’s to hoping you’re as successful at the next level as you were as a Gator this season.

  2. Very proud of this bunch of seniors – their leadership definitely helped turn the team around. Last year was a big improvement from the year before, and this year was yet another (big improvement). Sorry to see Franks go – if Trask was in his shoes, he would have stayed. Once again next year we will have only three scholarship quarterbacks. But that’s next year – this year we go to a New Year Six bowl game – GO GATORS!!!

    • I wish Frank’s all the best in his future endeavors. However, if Frank’s was in Trask’s shoes he would never have gotten the opportunity to play – very different set of personalities and leadership skills. It is likely we were only going to keep two skill quarterbacks from this set and we are keeping the right two. Coach Mullen managed the situation well.

  3. Greeenard is slated as a late first-round, early 2nd round pick. I have been a dolphins fan since they started in 1966, but I would not wish Greenard (or any current Gator) on this horrible management/ownership in Miami. They are a trainwreck waiting for the next engine to hit them.

  4. Watching the draftnik predictions, I see there is a love affair between these draft experts and LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State and Wisconsin. In one prediction 17 of the first 96 picks are from these schools. I see CJ Henderson anywhere from 1st to 3rd round, Zuniga 2nd round and Greenard 1st to 3rd round. It is almost laughable that these “experts” do nothing but select players who make the media stories on CBS and ESPN sports. A running back from Wisconsin. That last RB from Wisconsin to get such hype was Ron Dayne, and we all know what a success that guy was in the NFL. Oh well, just sit back and enjoy those Gators heading to the NFL. We know ,they won’t pull a “Nick Bosa” and opt not to play in their bowl game out of fear of injury.